EXCLUSIVE: Going into The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, the Coen brothers’ latest, Oscar-nominated composer Carter Burwell knew their sensibilities and working methods well, as he notes in the video above. At this point, Burwell had worked with the legendary directors on 16 films, dating back to Blood Simple in 1984. What the composer was surprised by, when it came to their latest outing, was its structure, which affected the way both story and music would unfold. The product of many years of writing and contemplation, the Coen brothers’ latest is an anthology film comprised of six distinct stories—each, with its own characters and thematic concerns—that together, present an altogether distinctive take on life in the Old West.
After many years of collaboration, Burwell has come to be involved with the Coens’ films well ahead of production, offering input and insights that can affect the shaping of a film, all the way through the final cut. In the case of Buster Scruggs, the composer had a range of strong emotional colors to work with. “Sometimes the music plays the hopes and dreams, and sometimes it plays the bleakness of the situation,” he explains. “Each [story] is very different, but music would be the thing that would tie them all together.”
To hear more from Burwell about his work on the Netflix film, take a look above.